Exhibition at the University of Northampton is a UK first

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The University of Northampton has launched the UK’s first display of Naxi artwork in its exhibition ‘China’s Forgotten Kingdom’.

The Naxi are an ethnic minority from the Yunnan reigion of south west China, and both their language and artwork use picture characters instead of traditional Chinese letters. The picture language, Dongba script, is one of the few visual languages in modern use, and is made up of 2,500 pictographs.

Paul Middleton, executive dean of the school of the arts at the University of the Northampton, said: “We are delighted to host the exhibition of the Naxi people and particularly the work of the artists who base their work on the unique Dongba Pictograph - a 2,500 image alphabet with origins that have roots in the region’s cave drawings.

“This is unique as it provides a living, breathing visual language that presents great potential for ground breaking research. We are excited that the University of Northampton is leading on this research work that will have international impact.”

The launch of China’s Forgotten Kingdom was attended by the Naxi artists and Chinese dignitaries. The opening ceremony was performed by the leading Dongba priest in China, He Limin, who constructed a Dongba pictograph blessing especially for the University of Northampton. He called upon the 28 Dongba Gods to bless the exhibition, as well as blessing the emerging friendships that it has generated with good health and prosperity.

Twenty students and staff from the university recently visited China and worked to catalogue the Naxi people’s ancient cave paintings in the Leaping Tiger Gorge, south west China.

The exhibition is part of a programme of work between the University of Northampton, the Communications University of China in Beijing, Lijang digital media centre for Naxi Dongba Culture and the Chinese government.

China’s Forgotten Kingdom will run until April 12, 2013.